My wife, Paula, and I were relaxing one evening, sharing thoughts about the success of a missional event in which our church participated. I was expecting Paula to be happy with our outreach effort; I know I sure was.
Instead, she said, “We need to do another one—real soon!” I wasn’t quite ready for her reply, and I said: “Sheesh! How much is enough? How many people do we need in church for you to be satisfied?”
At this time, we had around 150 people in the church, which for me was huge. In our first 15 years as pastors, we averaged fewer than 100 souls on any given Sunday.
We were seeing a number double the size we’d had for 15 years. I would congratulate myself saying, “We’re double Foursquare’s national average!”
But Paula wasn’t impressed with my math. “Ron, I don’t know how much is enough,” she told me. “But I know this: This is not it!”
I was humbled by Paula’s simple challenge. And it turns out she was right— I would soon learn that she and the Holy Spirit were in cahoots, because our church hadn’t yet reached its full potential.
After 15 years as a pastor, I asked the Lord, “How many people have You graced me to pastor?” You see, I had an aversion to attendance goals (which, by the way, I still do). So, I asked the Lord, “What’s my grace capacity?” In other words, how many people can I pastor effectively? How has God blessed me? How has He wired me? What does He expect from my efforts without shipwrecking my marriage, kids, health or church?
Soon, a specific number was made very clear to me. I then had a measurable number that wasn’t in competition with others in my city or with my denomination. And it wasn’t an arbitrary number from other pastors; I no longer had to compete with the national average. It was a personal number.
So how do you arrive at a healthy, missional, growing church even if you aren’t packing out stadiums? What about the other 90 percent of pastors?
I thank God for the champions of the church. I appreciate our authentic church superstars, pastors who can take a church from zero to hero with what seems like little effort. But the average size of a church in the U.S. proves they aren’t the vast majority.
When it comes to church size, most of us are either moved by guilt or moved by pride. But when we hear from God and see how He has gifted us, our motivation becomes obedience covered with gratitude. Then, we can simply focus on hearing those long-awaited words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21, NKJV).
What is your grace capacity?
- Pray that God will show you what your personal grace capacity is, who He made you to be.
- Pray that more pastors will lead with the grace He has given us in these last days.
- Pray that we will seek ways to take risks again and to dream again, to use everything we have for the kingdom’s sake.